Top Tips and Tricks for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

cabinets painted different colors

One of the easiest things you can do to update the look of your kitchen is to paint your kitchen cabinets. It is a great way to save money if your existing cabinets are in perfectly good condition, but just look sad. Painting them can give them new life without going through the trouble and expense of putting in new ones.

On the other hand, DIY painting can also have great benefits if you are replacing your kitchen cabinets with stock or RTA cabinets. While these come in a wide variety of styles and colors, they are ultimately mass-produced (which is why they are so affordable) so it is highly probable a few people in your area has the exact same cabinets in their kitchens. Painting your kitchen cabinets can turn your kitchen into a unique place.
You can have the cabinetmaker or professional painter do it for you, of course, but that might cost more than you are willing to pay. You can do it yourself if you follow some of these expert tips and tricks.

Smoother the way

wood putty
The first thing you have to do is to make sure the surfaces you plan to paint are completely smooth and flawless. You will spend a lot of time prepping the surface, most probably with a lot of sandpaper and elbow grease.
If you are working with an unfinished surface (such as brand new kitchen cabinets), sanding will level out the joints and ridges, remove burrs, and trim down any wood putty or spackle. You want to use a sanding sponge to get at corners and other difficult places.

Cover your tracks

painter’s tape
You do not want to skimp on painter’s tape and plastic sheeting for covering any surfaces you want to keep free of dust and paint. Sanding makes quite a bit of mess, and it can be very hard to get all of it out. The same goes with paint, which gets into the most unlikely places and can be hard to remove once it dries.

Tint the primer

paint being mixed
A cool trick by professional painters to deal with cracks or imperfections on the cabinet’s surfaces is to level them with wood filler and letting it harden. However, you can’t put top paint directly on wood filler as this will absorb the moisture, making those areas of the paint look noticeably flat and dull. This effect is so common it even has a name: flashing.

To prevent flashing, painters lay down a coat of primer paint to serve as a shield between the filler compound and the top paint. For best results, painters tint the primer, which is usually white, so that it is about 75% the same color as the final coat. This makes the top coat look more vibrant, and you will probably need fewer coats to achieve the look you want. You will definitely want to tint your primer if you have a vibrant top color like orange.

A bit of tinting color goes a long way, so it can be easy to go overboard. If you are not sure how to tint your primer to just the right saturation, ask your paint store to mix it for you.

Press your point

two-toned cabinet
One of the most frustrating things about DIY painting is successfully masking off areas to keep paint out. For example, if you want your kitchen cabinets to have two different colors, the usual process is to lay down the base or lighter color over the entire surface, using painter’s or masking tape to delineate the border, and painting one part a different color. Once the paint dries, you take off the tape and everything is hunky dory.

Easy, right? Well…
In most cases, you will realize that paint has actually leaked under the tape when you take it off. You then have the unenviable task of painstakingly touching up those areas, and probably not doing it right.

The best way to avoid this situation is by making sure there is no way the paint will bleed under the tape. Do this by firmly pressing the tape on to the surface using a rubber scraper or putty knife. This works best with painter’s tape. Masking tape tends to get wavy when wet and it leaves residue behind. Invest a bit more on painter’s tape now to avoid problems later.

You should also bide your time before removing the tape. Make sure the paint is dry and resist the urge to rip off the tape willy-nilly. Start at the top and apply slow, steady pressure when removing the tape.

Condition the paint

paint conditioner
The best paint for cabinets is something called alkyd paint, which dries hard and resists chipping. The problem with this type of paint is that it dries quickly. If you don’t work fast, you could end up with an uneven paint job with lap and brush marks.
The way to avoid this is to mix in a paint conditioner or extender. This keeps the paint from drying too fast so you have time to paint a surface evenly. The extender also makes the paint flow a bit more, so you get a much more even coat. Ask your paint store for product recommendations and some advice on how to mix it with the paint.


These tips and tricks can help you with your paint job considerably. Your kitchen cabinets will look just as good as you imagined it would be. If you are in the market for some new cabinets you can customize, make sure you get good quality ones that will last a long time from a reputable supplier. If you are in cities such as Chicago, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Hoffman Estate, Elk Grove Village, and surrounding areas, Cabinets City is your best choice.

We carry some of the best brands in the country, from Thermofoil to wood cabinets, and at the best prices compared to Cabinets To Go and Advance Cabinets. These include Schrock, Fabuwood, J and K, Forevermark, and Wolf Cabinets, each of which come with manufacturer warranties. We always deliver on time, so you will not have to worry about keeping your schedule to stay in budget.

We can advise you on the best cabinets for your kitchen or bathroom. Give us a call for a free consultation and quote, or visit our showroom in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. We can give you what you need faster and better than big box stores.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Bayram Gulsen <br/><span id="position">Owner</span>

Bayram Gulsen

Bayram Gulsen is the owner of Cabinets City. He always had this passion to redefine cabinetry to be at its best along with his dedicated team and the author of Cabinets City blog: You can find Bayram on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Call Now